Gustaf Nelhans

Faculty of Librarianship, Information, Education and IT (including The Swedish School of Library and Information Science)

Swedish School of Library and Information Science

Phone: 033-435 5985

Mobile: 0790-662960


Room number: C530

Signature: GUNE


Dr. Gustaf Nelhans is a theorist of science and senior lecturer at the Swedish School of Library and Information Science (SSLIS) at University of Borås, Sweden. His research focuses on the performativity of scientometric indicators as well as on the theory, methodology and research policy aspects of the scholarly publication in scientific practice using a science and technology studies (STS) perspective. Presently he leads a Work Package in the Horizon 2020 funded project “Big DATA approaches FOR improved monitoring of research and innovation performance and assessment of the societal IMPACT in the Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing Societal Challenge” (Grant ID. 770531). Here his focus of interest is directed towards evaluation of societal relevance such as professional impact, i.e., citation performance in clinical guidelines, as well as altmetric studies of Twitter conversations of health issues.

Brief professional sketch

In my research, I am contributing to a quantitative branch in theory of science (broadly defined as Science, Technology Studies, STS) where the focus on scientific practice, directed towards the scientometric study of publications, research activities and networks of scientific culture. My thesis, Citeringens praktiker – Det vetenskapliga publicerandet som teori, metod och forskningspolitik (‘Practices of citations – the scientific publication as theory, method and research policy’) was successfully defended on September 27th, 2013. Faculty opponent was Professor Mats Benner, Research Policy Institute, Lund University and the committee consisted of Professor Ulla Eriksson Zetterquist, Institute Director Gothenburg Research Institute, Associate Professor Fredrik Åström, University Library at Lund University and Professor emeritus Aant Elzinga, University of Gothenburg. Chairperson at the disputation proceedings was Mats Fridlund at Aalto University, Finland, who was also acting supervisor together with Margareta Hallberg, University of Gothenburg who was primary supervisor for the thesis.

In the analysis of internal scientific debates (drawing on controversy studies) and in studying the development of research fields and discipline-building, I argue that citation analyses of individual researchers publication patterns is a set of variables that the theorist of science can draw on to identify (important) aspects of research, which has largely been neglected within STS during the later years where qualitative studies has been preferred. But true to the tenets of STS research, using data retrieved from Thomson Reuters Web of Science, the focus is on individual articles in terms of references given and citations received in a context that is labelled the ‘citation network’, instead of focusing on large aggregated data sets where individual contributions are easily masked.

At the same time, researchers are becoming increasingly aware of the use of bibliometrics to evaluate research and to allocate funding. In the project I try to identify if and how this results in actors changing their practices of doing research and to what degree this has resulted in a self-reflexive performative “citation culture” (Wouters, 1999) that turns researchers to develop various publication and research practices to maximize the impact of and reward from their publications. In doing this I aim to take the practice turn within science studies a step away from the laboratory to also look at publishing as a distinct material practice with its specific cultural practices. The thesis aims to develop a way to discuss scientometric indicators in a context where researchers, articles, the citation index as used in the “performative citation culture” are constantly creating and recreating each other in what has come to be known as “the mangle of practice” (Pickering, 1995). In addition to Pickering’s work and scientometrics my methodological work on a modern reconceptualization of STS scientometrics is influenced by the perspectives of the performativity of scientific texts by Steve Woolgar and texts as political and enrolling intermediaries by Bruno Latour.

Presently I am employed as a senior lecturer in Library and Information science at the University of Borås where I am teaching in the area of Informetrics (bibliometrics, scientometrics and webometrics) theory of science and digital methods. Presently I lead a Work Package in the Horizon 2020 financed project Data for Impact, which is a collaboration between research groups from many European countries. Earlier, I was doing research in The co-production of social science and society: the case of Happiness studies, PI Margareta Hallberg, Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg, financed by the Swedish Research Counsil (Vetenskapsrådet), together with Christopher Kullenberg, mapping the research area and visualizing aspects of the developments within the field. I was also part of the project File sharing after IPRED, PI Jan Nolin, University of Borås, where I did media analysis, webometric analyses on Wikipedia data and content analyses on comment fields in blogs and Youtube entries. In this research, I used cluster analysis methods, Spatial and Social Network Analysis (SSNA) and visualization techniques for large sets of “Internet data”.

Recently I was invited speaker at an international workshop on 'Best Practices' in bibliometrics, organized by The Association of Swedish Higher Education, followed by a two day course on bibliometrics for practitioners at the universities and the corporate sector.

Some years ago I gave two talks on perspectives on the use of bibliometrics for research policy in Sweden. First a keynote presentation at a shared event with Blaise Cronin, Rudy professor in Information Science at Indiana University and Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. The title of my contribution was: ‘Inscribed and circumscribed by citations – Indicators, impact and quality in the humanities and social sciences’. Bibliometrics at the Crossroads, Seminar on Scientific Indicators, University of Borås and Chalmers University Library, Gothenburg: May 24th, 2012.

A version of this talk was also given at the 4S/EASST conference October 17-20, 2012, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark at a session entitled Mapping the dynamics of the social sciences and humanities.

The thesis (in Swedish, with an English summary) is available at and in printed form directly from the author.

Contact info:

Gustaf Nelhans
University of Borås
Visiting Address: Allégatan 1, room C526
SE 501 90 Borås Sweden
Tel: 033-435 5985



Consultancies, board and expert group memberships (selected)


2019    Appointed board member of the National Library of Sweden’s Advisory council for the period May 2019- Dec. 2021 (Ref. Tina Abelin, Ministry of Education and Research).

2019    Invited expert discussant on Open Access/Plan S. Riksbankens jubileumsfond, Board of Directors meeting, May 13. Presented Open access and Plan S - Riksbankens Jubileumsfond – viewpoints of current states: and the road ahead. (Available upon request)

2018    Expert advice on using bibliometrics to identify SDU areas of strength and specialization, Research Support and Policy Services, University of Southern Denmark (Ref. Esben Flindt)

2018    Expert advice on policy for researcher address affiliations, Västra Götalandsregionen (Ref. Lars Grip)

2018–  Appointed member of the National Library of Sweden’s Research council (Ref. Jonas Nordin, secretary)

2017–  Appointed member in a national working group on The current merit and resource allocation system versus incentives for open access, National Library of Sweden 2017-2019 (Ref. Beate Eellend, secretary).

2017    Contributor to bibliometric model for evaluating research impact in clinical guidelines. ALF-tilldelningen, Swedish Research Council 2017 (Ref. Andreas Augustsson, SRC).

2017    Invited expert on Bibliometrics for the Västra Götalandsregionen and the Sahlgrenska University Hospital. 2017-01-2017-06 20 % of full time (Ref. Lars Grip).

2016–  Appointed ”klagesensor”, for student appeals. Department of Archivistics, Library and Information Science, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Norway, Feb, 2016; Jan, 2018.

2015    Invited expert to ”Hearing angående förslag till nationella riktlinjer för öppen tillgång till vetenskaplig information”. Commissioned by the Ministry of education and research, Rosenbad. Dec, 2015

2015    Invited expert to the group that composed the response to the Swedish Research Board’s committee report “Forskningskvalitetsutvärdering i Sverige – FOKUS” (Invited by Anders Nylund, University of Borås). Nov-Dec, 2015

2015    Expert commentator: ”Riktlinjer för utvärderande bibliometri i Sverige”. (Commisioned by SUHF:s forum för bibliotekschefers arbetsgrupp för bibliometri). Nov, 2015

2015    SAFER - Vehicle and Traffic Safety Centre at Chalmers University of Technology – comments and suggestions for a bibliometrics performance study of the organisation’s research. Oct, 2015.


Referee assignments

  • Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), 2012-
  • iConference 2014, Berlin, Humboldt Universität: iSchools
  • Human IT, 2014-
  • Information Research, 2015-
  • BMC Research Notes, 2016-
  • Research Evaluation, 2018-

Upcoming research activities:

Invited speaker at Scientific communication and gate keeping in academia in Uppsala, Sweden, 24-25 May, 2018

Invited keynote (with Jonas Gurell, SRC) at CRIS2018: 14th International Conference on Current Research Information Systemshosted by Vereniging euroCRIS in collaboration with Umeå University, June 13-16, 2018

Visting scholar at University of Southern Denmark, University Library, August-October, 2018

Convenor (with Björn Hammarfelt) Nordic Workshop on Bibliometrics and Research Policy, University of Borås, November 7-9, 2018

Invited research seminars and scholarly lectures given:

Keynote and invited plenary talks

2018     “Academic integrity in scholarly publishing vs. bibliometric compliance” Seminar on ‘predatory publishing’. Faculty of Education, University of Gothenburg, Feb 7, 2018

2018     “The performativity of the citation: Evaluative scientometrics beyond impact indicators” Invited talk at University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark, Jan 24, 2018.

2017     “Vetenskaplig kvalitet i den nya publiceringsekonomin”. Keynote presentation at SWERA-konferensen, Swedish Educational Research Association, Linköping, Oct 5, 2017

2015     “Vilken roll spelar bibliometriska indikatorer för den vetenskapliga praktiken?” Invited talk (twice) at SUHF:s konferens Forskningsadministration i focus. Stockholm: Norra Latin. Oct. 9 2015.

2015     “Resource allocation based on bibliometrics – Are you citeable, my friend?”. Invited plenary at Seminar on ”best practice” för utvärderande bibliometri. SUHF:s forum för bibliotekschefers arbetsgrupp för bibliometri, Stockholm: KTH, May 19th, 2015.

2014     “Qualitative Scientometrics”. Conference paper presentation: Invited plenary talk at 35th IATUL Conference, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland. June 2-5 2014.

2012     “Inscribed and Circumscribed by Citations – Indicators, Impact and Quality in the Humanities and Social Sciences”. Invited talk presented at the Bibliometrics at the crossroads seminar Chalmers Library and University of Borås, May 23, 2012.

Conference and workshop presentations (selected):

2017     “Explorative scientometrics beyond impact indicators – qualitative citation analysis.” Academic Rankings and Metrics Workshop, Visualizations Center, Linköping University, Norrköping Campus., Nov 29–Dec 1, 2017. Invited by David Moats, Linköping University.

2017    “Topic modelling approaches to aggregated citation data.” Paper presented at the 22nd International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators Paris (France) September 6-8, 2017

2017     “Explorative visualization of citation networks with VOSviewer”. EINFOSE Summer School Hildesheim, Burg Katlenburg Aug. 30, 2017

2017     “Quantitative Digital Methods”. EINFOSE Summer School Hildesheim, Burg Katlenburg Aug. 29, 2017

2017    “Meta-metric evaluation of research”. Workshop presentation: Working with indicators, Styrsö, May 11, 2017.

2016     ”The performativity of the citation” Workshop presentation, Accelerated Academy: evaluation, acceleration, and metrics in academic life. Leiden, The Netherlands. Dec. 1, 2016.

2016     ”Utforskande visualisering av citeringsnätverk med VOSviewer”. Metrics workshop – tema visualisering. SUHF, Stockholm, Karolinska Institute. Nov. 8, 2016

2016     “Citation Impact in Clinical Guidelines” Poster presented at the 21st Nordic Workshop for Bibliometrics and Research Policy. Copenhagen, Denmark, Nov. 3-4, 2016

2016     “Professional Impact of Clinical Research”. Paper presented at the 21st International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators Valencia (Spain) September 14-16, 2016

2016     “Happiness as a valuation of nations: from margin to indicator”. Paper presented at 4S/EASST annual meeting: Science & technology by other means: Exploring collectives, spaces and futures. Barcelona, Spain. Aug. 31-Sep. 3, 2016

2016     “Professional Impact”. Workshop presentation: Living with indicators: bibliometrics and research evaluation in contemporary academia, Borås, May 16, 2016

2015     “Meaningful citation analysis?”. Conference presentation: 20th Nordic Workshop on Bibliometrics and Research Policy, Oslo, Norway. October 2, 2015.

2015     ”Om mätbarhet och vad som är värt att mäta”. Workshop presentation: Symposiet Marknader för vetenskaplig publicering. 22-23 Jan, 2015, Stenhuset, Uppsala.

2014     “The Heterogeneous Landscape of Bibliometric Indicators: Evaluating Models for Allocating Resources at Swedish Universities” (w. Björn Hammarfelt and Pieta Eklund). Conference presentation: 19th Nordic Workshop on Bibliometrics and Research Policy, Reykjavik, Iceland. September, 2014.

2014     “Little Scientist, Big Data: Information fusion towards meeting the information needs of scholars”. Conference presentation: Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) 2014. Zadar, Croatia. June 2014. (w./ INCITE) 

2012     “Inscribed and Circumscribed by Citations – Indicators, Impact and Quality in the Humanities and Social Sciences” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) and European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST). Copenhagen, Denmark October 17-20, 2012.

2011     “Securitizing Technosciences: The 9/11-effect on the Research Landscape” (Co-author). Annual Meeting of the Society for the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Ohio, November 2-5, 2011, 2011. (w./ Mats Fridlund)

  • Vetenskapsteori, Scientometri
  • Marco Schirone, CLS, Chalmers (biträdande handledare)

Researcher's publications in DiVA (Digitala Vetenskapliga Arkivet)

Title of Dissertation

Citeringens praktiker. Det vetenskapliga publicerandet som teori, metod och forskningspolitik (English translation: The practices of the citation: Scientific publication as theory, method and research policy). 2013. Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science University of Gothenburg, P. O. Box 200, SE 40530 Gothenburg Sweden ISBN 978-91-628-8767-4 (print ed.), 978-91-628-8768-1 (electronic ed.)

External Publications

Article in 1866 about Nelhans' research

Latest publications

On-going research projects

Finished research projects


Research groups